August 2, 2015
Senator Kirk; a compelling lesson in overcoming
Senator Mark Kirk started his political career in my living room in 1999 with a run for the Republican primary. I had never been much involved in political on goings up until that point. A chance meeting with Mark some months earlier, had very much impressed me. Beyond fitting the stereotypical role of a “glad-hander”, it was clear that he actually spent time studying and learning about the issues that he cared about. I felt strongly that he deserved my support. His encyclopedic knowledge served to provide a sturdy foundation for a subsequent voting record that put him dead center of the Congressional pack. His independent posture has on certain issues that we have not agreed on, left me disappointed. His adamant refusal to at times discuss those decisions, has more than once left me fuming. But Mark Kirk is, and has always been a man who though politically agile, is and continues to be, a legislator who remains fundamentally driven from his core. Having sat with him on numerous occasions during his recovery at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, I have witnessed a fighter who has clung to life with a tenacity beyond comprehension. Beyond clinging, he has, against all odds, gone on to re-mount and to and to the extent permitted by his disabilities, risen, where most others would understandably have crumbled.
Senator Kirk’s mental file cabinets remain intact. He knows who he is and how he got to where he is and what he needs to do in order to stay true to his beliefs. What is not intact however are certain social filters, which even before the stroke(s) were of questionable sensitivity. Now aggravating that condition, is an iron-clad will which while well serving him to overcome his crushing disabilities, has also turned him into a steel rod of sorts. “Bro without a ho” made me, and others who have been rooting for the Senator’s courageous return, cringe with embarrassment for him. Though perhaps the crescendo of gaffes to date, this diminished process of filtration has been a question of on-going concern. I am not sure that I would have spoken to the press as Ron Gidwitz did, but neither will I deny what for a period of some years has been a topic of anguished debate. Anyone who has observed Senator Kirk will tell you that he is no longer a political gazelle. He is physically neither moving around as has used to, and on top of that he will on occasion say things that would topple a person of lesser fortitude.
The real question before us concerns not Senator Kirk’s ability to effectively uphold the interests of his constituents but rather the tolerance of the voter for packaging that may at times be cumbersome to work with. Let’s not fool ourselves. The Senator will slip again; and maybe several times after that. But at his core he remains who is has always been and most importantly, where he could have retired on both a Naval and a Congressional pension, he has chosen instead to continue a career of public service regardless of the fact that walking from his kitchen to his living room takes more effort and stamina than a trip to the gym does for any of us. That fact alone deserves respect and humble consideration.
Andrew D. Lappin